Sustainable Eating, One Insect at a Time.

 Photo by Bogdan Suditu |

I’ve eaten a few bugs in my day. Some for a dare, some chocolate covered ones out of curiosity and others by plain accident, but ever since Davey Hamada posted the article “Would you like climate change with that?” I have been beginning to think about bugs more often. I am not a vegetarian, and I am also someone who is interested in eco-initiatives. I do feel self conscious about my meat consumption, and after hearing other people talk about the sustainability and environmental benefits of chowing down on those creepy crawlies, I thought I would check out the facts. 

In a 2010 study, Oonincx and colleagues investigated the effectiveness of edible insects as alternatives to our greenhouse gas producing livestock. They found that 18% of the greenhouse gases created as a result of human activity was from livestock. To put this into perspective, our production of greenhouse gases from our transportation needs is only 14%. The environmental damages of livestock does not stop their either - they also contribute to soil damage through the effects of the ammonia in their manure and urine.

The study looked into three different types of edible insects: mealworms, house crickets and locusts, as well as two non edible types: sun beetles and Argentinean cockroaches. The non edible types of insects were included in the research because meat protein can be extracted from them and used as a source of food. The study insects were raised with a consistent meal schedule and their greenhouse gas production were then measured. The production of greenhouse gases in insects depends on their temperature, activity, feeding and stage of development. The results of the study were that the feed conversion efficiencies (mass gained vs. CO2 produced per feed unit) of the insects were up to 61% higher than pigs and 88% higher than cattle.

Clearly, there is capacity to reduce the environmental harm of livestock by the use of edible insects. Not only do they produce less greenhouse gases, they also present a highly sustainable resource. The important piece to note here is the choice of the word capacity. Realistically, these are still insects and there is taboo in at least Western culture against eating them. Now that we have the information from this study, the questions we need to start asking are: How could these insects be farmed? Could they be sacrificed in a humane way? Would people actually eat them?

What are the answers? That, you will find out in my next post! In the meantime, check out this cool infographic made about the use of edible insects!

Eating Insects - The Most Eco-Friendly Meat
Source: Food Service Warehouse